Saturday, June 13, 2015


This is a rough translation of the complete Italian editorial in L'osservatoro Romano from Friday the 12th of June of Cardinal Robert Sarah. It is to the Ordinary Form what Summorum Pontificum of 7/7/07 was to the Extraordinary Form! 

The English translation is a bit rough in places, but you get the complete picture here! It is stunning in scope and recommendation and is sure to cause apoplexy amongst some liturgists. He even laments secular clothing entering the sanctuary! This is good!


Silenziosa azione del cuore by His Eminence, Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship

Fifty years after its promulgation by Pope Paul VI  why is the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the sacred liturgy read till the end in such a simple (superficial) way? The "Sacrosanctum concilium" is not in fact a simple catalog of "recipes" of reforms, but a real "magna carta" of each liturgical action.

The ecumenical council gives us a masterful lesson of method. In fact, far from settling for a disciplinary approach or outward revision to the liturgy, the Council wants to make us contemplate what is in its essence. The practice of the Church always  receives from God and contemplates this revelation. The pastoral constitution  cannot be disconnected from the doctrine.

In the Church "what comes from the action of God is ordered to contemplation" (see n. 2).  The conciliar constitution invites us to rediscover the Trinitarian origin of liturgical worship. In fact, the Council establishes a continuity between the mission of Christ the Redeemer and the mission of the liturgical Church. "As Christ was sent by the Father, so also he sent the apostles" so that "through the sacrifice and the sacraments around which gravitates the whole liturgical life of the Church" to implement "the work of salvation" (n. 6).

The liturgy is really meant to implement the work of Christ. The liturgy is in its essence "actio Christi": the "work of human redemption is perfect glory of God" (n. 5).  He is the great priest, the true subject, the true actor in the liturgy (see n. 7).  If this vital principle is not welcomed in faith, there is a risk to make the liturgy a human work, a congratulation of the community.

On the contrary, the work of the Church is to join the action of Christ, in bringing about that work, of which Jesus received from the Father the mission of salvation. Therefore "it was given to us the fullness of divine worship ", because "his humanity, in the unity of the person of the Word, was the instrument of our salvation" (n. 5).  The Church, the body of Christ, must therefore become an instrument in the hands of the Word of God (Jesus).

This is the ultimate meaning of the key concept of the conciliar constitution: the "participatio actuosa" (actual participation).  Such participation is for the Church to become an instrument of Christ-priest, in order to participate in his Trinitarian mission. The Church is actively involved in the liturgical worship of Christ to the extent it is the tool. In this sense, to speak of "celebrating community" is not without ambiguity and requires real caution (see the Education "Redemptoris sacramentum", n. 42).  The "participatio actuosa" should not be understood as the need to do something. On this point the Council's teaching was often distorted. We are to let Christ take us and our associate us in his sacrifice.

The "participatio" liturgy must therefore be understood as a grace of Christ, who "always associates Himself in  the Church" ( "Sacrosanctum concilium", n. 7).  It is He who takes  the initiative and the primacy. The Church "then invokes Christ as her Lord and through him makes the worship to the eternal Father" (n. 7).

The priest must therefore must not become a tool that betrays Christ. As has just reminded us, Pope Francis stated the celebrant is not the presenter of a spectacle, must not look for the applause of the congregation by placing himself as the center of attention. Entering into the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is on the contrary to the priest being the center, he should give up to be the focal point.

Contrary to what has been sometimes argued, it is entirely consistent with the conciliar constitution, and even should be today that during the rite of penance, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and the Eucharistic prayer, all, priest and faithful, turn together toward the East, to express their desire to participate in the work of worship and of redemption accomplished by Christ. This way of doing it could conveniently be put in place in cathedrals where liturgical life must be exemplary (see n. 41).

Well understood, there are other parts of the mass in which the priest, acting in persona Christi Capitis", enters into dialog with the congregation. But this face to face has no other end that lead to a tete-a-tete with God that, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, becomes a heart to heart. The Council proposes many other means of encouraging participation: "the  acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and the attitude of the body" (n. 30).

A superficial reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium and making the action of the Liturgy, and above all too human, has led to the conclusion that it was necessary to ensure that the faithful were constantly occupied. The contemporary western mind , modeled by the arts and  fascinated by the media, wanted to make the liturgy a work of effective pedagogy and profitable. In this spirit, it has tried to make the celebration more convivial. The  liturgical actors, animated by pastoral reasons, sometimes look for opportunities to make the liturgy overly participative by introducing the celebrations to profane and spectacular (spectacle?)  elements. Do we not see perhaps flourishes of acting, staged for applause? It is believed to promote the participation of the faithful while in fact it reduces the liturgy in a human game.

"The silence is not a virtue, nor the noise a sin, it is true," says Thomas Merton, "but the tumult, the confusion and the noise continues in modern society or in certain African liturgies  are an expression of the atmosphere of its most serious sins, of his wickedness, his despair. A world of propaganda, of endless arguments, of invective, criticisms, or simply to chat, and a world in which life is not worth living. The mass becomes a drunken or confused; the prayers an exterior or interior noise" (Thomas Merton, "signe de Jonas", and. Albin Michel, Paris, 1955, p. 322).

It is in real danger of not leaving any room for God in our celebrations. We in the temptation of the Jews in the desert. They sought to create a worship to their extent and their height, and let us not forget that ended up lying prostrate in front of the idol of the golden calf.

It's time to start listening to the Council. The liturgy is "primarily worship of the divine majesty" (n. 33). Its educational value is to the extent that it is completely ordered the glorification of God and the divine worship. The liturgy is truly in the presence of divine transcendence. True Participation means renew in us the "wonder" that Saint John Paul II was held in great esteem (see "Ecclesia de Eucharistia", n. 6).  This amazement or awe of the sacred, this joyful fear of the Lord, requires our silence in the face of the divine majesty. It is often forgotten that the sacred silence is one of the means set forth by the Council to promote participation.

If the liturgy is the work of Christ, is it necessary that the celebrant should introduce his commentary? We must bear in mind that, when the missal authorizes an intervention, this must not become a profane speech and human, a comment more or less thin on the news, or a greeting to worldly persons present, but a brief exhortation to enter into the mystery (see general presentation of the Roman Missal, n. 50).  As for the homily, and itself a liturgical act that has its own rules. The "participatio actuosa" to the work of Christ presupposes that you leave the profane world to join the "sacred action for excellence" ( "Sacrosanctum concilium", n. 7).  In fact, "we're asking, with a certain arrogance, to remain in the human to enter the divine" (Robert Sarah, "Dieu ou rien", p. 178).

In this sense, it is regrettable that the sanctuary of our churches is not a place strictly reserved for divine worship, where profane clothing enters in, that sacred space is not clearly defined by the architecture . Because, as the Council teaches, Christ is present in his word when it is proclaimed, and it is equally deleterious that readers do not have appropriate clothing that demonstrates that do not speak human words but a divine word.

The liturgy is a reality fundamentally mystical and contemplative, and therefore out of the reach of our human action; even the "participatio" is a grace of God. Therefore, presupposes that we are open to the mystery celebrated. Thus, the constitution calls for the full understanding of the rites (see n. 34) And at the same time requires "that the faithful know recite and sing together, even in the Latin language, the parties of the ordinary of the mass which pertain to them" (n. 54).

In fact, the understanding of the rites is not the work of human reason left to itself, that should comprehend everything, understand everything, mastering everything. The understanding of sacred rites and that of the "sensus fidei", which exerts the  living faith through symbol and that knows for harmony more than by concept. This understanding implies that one is closer to the mystery with humility.

But will you have the courage to follow the council up to this point? A similar reading, enlightened by faith, however is vital for evangelization. In fact, "to those who are outside it shows the Church, such as banner flying in the face of the nations, under which the scattered children of God can collect " (n. 2).  It must stop to be a place of disobedience to the requirements of the Church.

More specifically, the liturgy should not be an occasion of lacerations between Christians. The  reading of "Sacrosanctum concilium", the hermeneutical of rupture in one direction or another, are not the result of a spirit of faith. The Council did not wanted to break with the liturgical forms inherited from tradition, indeed wanted to expand it. The constitution stipulates that "the new forms grow organically, in some manner, from already existing ones" (n. 23).

In this sense, it is necessary that those who celebrate according to the 'usus antiquior" will do so without the spirit of opposition, and therefore in the spirit of the "Sacrosanctum concilium".  In the same way, it would be wrong to consider the extraordinary form of the Roman rite as deriving from another theology that is not of the  reformed liturgy. It is also desirable for an appendix to a next edition of the Missal, a rite of penance (PATFOTA) and the Offertory of the "usus antiquior" in order to emphasize that the two liturgical forms  shed light on each other, and are in continuity without opposition.

If we live in this spirit, then the liturgy will cease to be the place of rivalry and of criticism, for us to finally participate actively in the liturgy, "that is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, toward which we aspire as pilgrims, where Christ sits as Minister of the sanctuary" (n. 8).


Rood Screen said...

Thanks for posting this, Father McDonald. I'd say it is possibly your most significant post to date. And, these words of Cardinal Sarah rank only behind Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum as the most important so far this century.

Michael (Quicumque Vult)( said...

So, I wonder (we should pray for this), will we be seeing some kind of mandate that the reforms in question be put in place in cathedrals?

rcg said...

I am glad Dialogue heaped praise on it. I am very impressed, too.

Православный физик said...

This is a good development. It also needs some meat (aka mandates)...That said, I hardly think adding even more options on top of the multitude of options that already exist in the OF of the Roman RIte is a good thing.

I would do this, but take away the options, ab lib provisions, etc. Being realistic, the EF is not going to replace the OF, but I can see these movements putting to bed once and for all the Liturgical wars that exist in the Western church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In the revised English Roman Missal, there isn't the opportunity for ad libbing that the previous translation had. Unfortunately bishops and priests continue to ad lib where ad libbing has been removed.

Particularly insidious was the ad libbing for the Form C of the Penitential Rite. That shouldn't happen anymore, but I suspect it does.

I don't mind options. I like that there are more options for the Eucharistic Prayers, although I think there may be too many and not enough direction about when to use the Roman Canon.

I think Eucharistic Prayer IV should be suppressed and that there should only be on Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation rather than two. The children's Eucharistic Prayers need suppression too (I had heard they may reappear, but haven't seen that yet).

I like the Eucharistic Prayers for special occasions, I think there are four of these and I have used them for daily Mass.

I think Eucharistic Prayer II should only be for daily Mass or Low Mass on a Sunday.

With that said, though, I do think that the Ordinary Form with Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (which would in effect change to order of the Introductory Rite of the Ordinary Form) should replace what we have now. (By change in order, I refer to the fact that the greeting "The Lord be with you" would be moved to its traditional spot prior to the Collect rather than after the Sign of the Cross, which even the Episcopal Liturgy has maintained over the years in its revised liturgical books.

Of course, if there is a recovery of "filled silence" such as the silent Canon, there is no need for additional Eucharistic Prayers at all. Will the silent Canon make a come back with Cardinal Sarah and his first step toward a reform or the reform with an appendix that allows for many elements of the Extraordinary Form to be inserted into the Ordinary Form?

Time will tell!

Father G said...

The Rorate Coeli blog has an "exclusive" translation:

CPT Tom said...

Oh Father, this is a wonderful interview by Cardinal Sarah. I really hope there is some actual manifestation of this in the form of an Instruction. I think this is the only think I was disappointed with Pope Benedict, and that is he did not issue something akin to Summorum Pontificum for the ordinary form to address the deficient ars celeb of the Ordinary Form and associated abuses. He could have drawn on his vast writing on the liturgy. Hopefully Pope Francis will support Cardinal Sarah and we will see what Africa will bring to the whole of the Church. God Bless!